Friday, February 17, 2017

Take Advantage of Winter Fruit, Crumble Baby, Crumble.

   It all started with V-Day. I cannot stand forced holidays; I consider Valentines and New Years Eve to be two of those for starters. Don't get me wrong. I love a good time. I just don't like it when society makes me feel compelled to have a good time. I hate the Death Race 2017 type running for restaurant reservations, the right table, (hell any table) at the right time (dinner at 10:30? I think not) or even finding a place in our small town that isn't already booked waaaaay up. You see one of the side effects of living in a tourist town is not only does one have to worry about how to spend ones' holiday, one also has to worry about all the other people who have flooded into town to spend their holiday in Wine Country. There's nothing romantic about trying to choke down a prixe fixe meal while all the other celebrants who are waiting for you to finish, stand and stare and shift their weight around and sigh.

   So, about two years ago we decided the heck with that. We'll dine in for Valentines Day. I'll cook something special, we'll watch a movie that's the way to go. So we did that and it was soooooo much more relaxing, that it's now how we like to roll on those Must Celebrate Holidays. This year I had no trouble figuring out the appetizer and entree course, salad is salad but what for dessert?

   Since I've been working helping develop the menu for CocoaPlanet I've been cooking up a storm and now have a large collection of potential desserts to draw on. I wanted something warm and homey and also simple. We've been working hard around here the last couple of months, and finally have the pilot script done, turned into the producers and director and out of our hair... for now. I'm also nearly recovered from the surgery I had a couple of weeks ago as soon as the script was finished... so even thought I wanted to, I wasn't about to make a Croque Embouche.

After all, I'm not that nuts! I decided to make the perfect homey sort of dessert. The dessert that Alan loves to order any time he finds it on a menu, a Winter Fruit Crumble. Simple , tasty, and it bakes in the oven while the main course is being eaten. Can't beat that. If you have any bags of frozen cranberries left hanging around from Christmas or's the time to look like a smarty pants and use them. Otherwise, grab some apples, pears, berries and you've got a party, a crumble party.

Winter Fruit Crumble

Here's What You Need: 
1 cups frozen cranberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 Braeburn apples (or any other seasonal apple) peeled, cored, and cut into pieces
2 Bartlett pears peeled,cored, and cut into pieces
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 /2 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 Tbs cornstarch

For The Topping:
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup flour (regular or gluten free)
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter softened
1/2 cup sugar

Here's What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Mix the fruit together.

Add in the sugar and cornstarch.

Stir everything around coating the fruit well.

Grease individual ramekins or one 2 quart baking dish with butter.

Put the fruit into the ramekins or baking dish.

I halved this recipe since it was just the two of us.

Now for the topping, cut the softened butter into bite sized pieces.

In a separate bowl mix together the rolled oats, the sugar, flour, and salt.
Crumble the butter pieces into the rolled oats, flour, and sugar.

Mix it all together well into crumbly bits and sprinkle the crumbly topping onto the fruit tarts.

Place the baking dish or ramekins on a cookie sheet and place into the middle rack of the oven.

Bake until the juices are bubbling and the top is golden. Let it cool for a bit before serving it up.
You can top it with whipped cream, creme fraiche, or since it was V-Day, I made some vanilla bean ice cream.

Dig in...and take your time. Savor and one is waiting for your table.

   Coming up next, back to seasonal Indian food, what grows around, gets served. Follow along on Twitter at @kathygori

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Make it Easy Creme Brulee Plus Where I've Been

   The last few weeks have been relatively crazy, and I haven't done a lot  of (try any) cooking. The reason was I had some preventative surgery. Having had  breast cancer twice my doctors at UCSF and I decided to address the cancer my mom died of by taking a prophylactic know I've had the full Jolie....why don't I look like her??????
   After spending the bulk of the time resting, dealing with pain meds, recovering, and trying not to lift anything heavier than 20 pounds I finally got behind the stove again yesterday.  I wanted something sweet and easy to make. I'd been talking to Anne McKibben the owner and founder  of CocoaPlanet and it turns out we'd both been thinking of the same thing... why not add Creme Brulee to the dessert menu... both chocolate and vanilla. It sounded delicious and so I decided that for my first foray back into the kitchen I'd start with that, so yesterday I did.  I wanted something simple that didn't involve any standing around and that would be tasty with a minimum of sugar, and so this!

Creme Brulee

Here's What You Need: 
1 and 1/2 cups of whipping cream
1 pinch of salt
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
extra caster sugar for caramelizing the sugar crust

Here's What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
In a large bowl mix together  the egg yolks and powdered sugar.

Blend them together until the mixture is thick and smooth.

Drizzle in a bit of the whipping cream to lighten and make the mixture smoother.

Then add the rest of the whipping cream in and blend it together well.
When that is done pour everything through a strainer into another bowl to filter out any egg or sugar chunks.

After you've done this, add in the vanilla.

Mix everything together well.
Prepare about three cups of boiling water.
When the creme brulee is ready pour in into low creme brulee dishes which you have set  into a larger Pyrex baking dish.

Set them in the oven and pour the boiling water into the larger baking dishes so that the creme brulee dishes have water up to the midway point. Try not to spill any water into the creme brulee dishes.

 close the oven door and bake for about 30 minutes.

It's done when the creme brulees are set. The center can have a bit of a jiggle but should NOT still be liquidy. If they are, bake them a bit longer.
Take the creme brulee dishes  out of the oven, and using a spatula carefully transfer them from the water bath to a cooling rack.
Let them cool for about 30 minutes then put them in the fridge to chill for a bit.
When you are ready to serve them, take them out and sprinkle a couple of tsps of caster sugar over the top.

Tilt the creme brulee dish a bit to make sure the sugar is evenly distributed.

Then using a culinary torch start melting and crisping the sugar.

When you are done..there should be a thin hard glass like crust on top of the brulees.

At this point they should be put back in the fridge again for a few minutes for firm up any of the custard that might have softened too much from the flame. But do NOT leave it in the fridge too long as that will soften the sugar crust... maybe about 5 to 10 minutes is ok.
Then, serve them up.

   Breaking through the crisp sugar top is always fun, letting you get at the creamy custard inside.
This recipe makes 4 creme brulees, just double it if you want more of them. This might be a great dessert to serve for Valentines day as it's sweet, but not too heavy.
   So yes, I had some creme brulee yesterday which put me well on the path to healing. Coming up next more easy Indian recipes with Winter Vegetables, and maybe another sweet treat for V-Day. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Easy, Fast, Vegan. Can't Beat These Beets.

Indian beets, beets, vegan beets
   We grow a lot of our own produce at our place here in Sonoma. Every year when it's time to plant I think about what I like to cook, what vegetables I'm always shopping for, and those are the ones I choose. We xeriscaped our property when we bought it, took out the fountain out back, and the lawns in the front and back, kept the roses, planted fruit trees and herbs and in the back put 7 large raised growing beds. What we get out of these supplies a LOT of vegetables. Everything in the garden is on a drip system which is connected to NOAA by wifi which controls water consumption, and we renovated to CalGreen standards which brings out the DoomsDay Prepper in me. Next up, a cistern and grey water system, but for now we got a whole lot of veggies with the minimum of water and lot of chicken manure.
   One vegetable we always grow, because we like it and it's used in so many Indian recipes are beets. After the big storms we had last week and the ones coming/we are in the middle of this week, I harvested several pounds of beets and several pounds of potatoes. The potatoes are laid away in cold storage in the garage. Some have been separated out as seed potatoes for this springs garden, others stored for eating. The beets are going to be roasted, vacuum sealed, and frozen. But before they go into the deep freeze, we're enjoying some of them for lunch.

   Beets are great vegetables and I never really appreciated them until I started cooking and eating fresh ones rather then those things my mom would always reheat out of a jar. I'm a great believer that most vegetables people hate translate to "you've just been eating them wrong" meaning cooked the wrong way. That seems to work with a lot of things... except maybe okra... in my husbands' case. I did plant some two years ago but it mysteriously never came up. I don't know whether he had something to do with that or not, it remains a mystery. Beets however don't need any persuading around our house and I've got a simple traditional Indian recipe that makes cooking them a snap.

Beets With Indian Spices

Here's What You Need: 

2 or 3 large beets
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder  (or 1/4 tsp paprika mixed with 1/4 tsp cayenne which can in a pinch be a substitute)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)

Here's What To Do:
The first thing to do is prep your beets , The easiest way to do that is to roast them. This is how to do it with the least muss and fuss. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

1: Wash the beets off and dry them.
2 : Trim the beet tops to about an inch.
3: Rub the beets with some vegetable oil and wrap them individually in  foil this prevents beet leakage which can make ones oven resemble a murder scene.
4: Place the wrapped beets on a cookie sheet and bake them for about 45 minutes to an hour. Unwrap them a bit to check. When a fork goes into them easily they're done.
5: Either unwrap them and let them cool, to use them immediately.  Or keep them wrapped and cool them on the counter then place them in the fridge overnight for use the next day.

Now that the beets are roasted here's what's next.

WARNING: These beets are going to leak either way the minute you cut into them, so I usually use surgical gloves that one can get at any drugstore when working with them. I have a box of them for culinary use for beets and chilies.

Cut the tops off the beets.
Cut the bottom off the beets.
You can at this point slip the skin off of them with a paring knife or just trim it away easily.
Naked beets!
Cut the beets into small cubes, about 1/2 inch.

Get  your spices ready, because this dish cooks up pretty fast once the beets are roasted.

In a skillet or kadhai heat the vegetable oil.
When the oil is hot  toss in the mustard seeds and the curry leaves if you are using them.

When the mustard seeds start to pop and the curry leaves sizzle toss in the beets.

Turn the heat down to medium and add in the turmeric.

Stir it around well, then cover the pan and let things cook for about 5 minutes.

Take the lid off, give things a good stir and add in the salt and chili.

Keep the lid off the pan and cook for another 5  minutes or so. You want to make sure everything is well blended and nothing is sticking or burning, so give it a good stir every now and then.
When the beets are nice and tender, they're good to go.
Take out the curry leaves and dish them up.

I have several of these tiffin boxes which fit perfectly into my bike basket for an Indian picnic... HOWEVER, since it was pouring rain outside we just ate in the kitchen. They're mighty cute little boxes though.

 So there it is, a simple easy to fix Indian side dish, which goes really well with any other sort of food you're cooking, Indian or not. It may just change your mind about beets. Coming up next, working my way through the root cellar (wish I had one) Follow along on
Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Year, A New You, Clean Up Your Act But Don't Surrender the Taste.

   The holidays have come and gone, lots of feasting and indulging of all sorts. Speaking for myself, I ate a bunch of stuff over the last month that I usually don't indulge in during the rest of the year... but that's what holidays are for. Now it's January 7th. The tree is down, the wreath is gone from above the fireplace, and the front door. The pine cones and pillar candles are put away until next December. It's time to clean up the old dietary act. 

   Being raised in an Italian American household, we managed to prolong this holiday waaaaaay beyond January 1st by celebrating Three Kings Day... aka The Feast of the Epiphany. Now the operative word here is feast, which is what most of us have been doing too much of... so it's a new year and time to tighten our belts and gird our loins. However, our belts are already tight enough thank you very much and so the question is what to eat that is tasty, satisfying, and a whole lot cleaner in the big picture than this stuff....

...and this stuff...

   So turning to the foods of India, there's Kitchari also called Kitcheree. This word translates as "mixture" or "mess" or as it was known in the Old Testament  A Mess of Pottage. Kitcharee is a blend of lentils and rice, cooked together very simply... toss in some vegetables and now it's a party! Except this party is actually good for you. This dish is India's comfort food. Similar dishes are found all over Africa and Asia and the Americas. Called by different names, Congee, Kedgeree, or Chili, they all do the same thing, they're easy to digest and they have the same effect as Chicken Soup for whatever ails you.

   Recipes for kitcheree are found in all sorts of Ayurvedic cookbooks and the idea here is to keep it simple. Of course you don't have to keep it simple and that ls the beauty of this dish. You can add the spices you want and the vegetables you want, or add none at all. It doesn't get any easier than that cookingwise. Here's a simple kitcheree recipe you can have on the table in about 25 minutes. Toss in whatever vegetables or spices you like, just know that this is the starter kit. The basic, take it from here.

Simple Kitcheree

Here's What you Need: 
3 Tbs vegetable oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup of Basmati rice
1 cup of moong dal
6 cups of warm water
2 cups of your favorite vegetable 
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cliantro
lemon wedges

Here's What To Do:
Get your spices ready.

Heat the oil in a pot or kadhai.
When the oil is hot and shimmering add in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and turmeric.

Stir everything around when it starts to get aromatic and the mustard seeds start to pop.

Add in the rice...

...and the dal.

Stir things around for a minute or two to warm up the rice and dal then add in the water.

Add in the salt and the vegetables. I used fresh baby spinach leaves and some of our homegrown butternut squash crop.

Bring everything to a boil and when it does...

...put the lid on the pot, lower the heat to simmer, and let it cook for about 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, take the lid off, stir things around, and mix in the chopped cilantro.
Dish it up.

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over it, and you can also drizzle a bit of melted ghee over things if you really want to be bad (hey, why not?) It adds a nice rich buttery flavor to the dish.

As I said before, you can make this just as it is simple and plain and good for what ails you or you can jazz it up a bit with more spices, onions, you name it. You are the boss of this kitcheree. Also since this is the start of the New Year, if you want to get into more Indian Cooking check out our shop at  The Chaunk. 

   Get everything you need to start cooking the Kitcheree recipe above and all sorts of other easy  Indian dishes at home, and if you sign up for our email list right now, you'll get 10% off The Chaunk kit from now until Jan 15th to start your New Years eating adventures off right. Coming up next, eat fresh even in the Winter. Indian recipes for your seasonal menu. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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